Phyllis M. West (nee McRoberts) was born in Evansville, Indiana, and spent her childhood years in Sullivan, Indiana. Following her graduation from high school, she attended Asbury College (now Asbury University) in Wilmore, Kentucky, where she earned a BA in both Biology and Chemistry in 1953.
After graduation, Mrs. West relocated to Indianapolis, Indiana, where she worked at Methodist Hospital as a medical technician for a year before entering Butler University as a master’s candidate. She graduated from Butler with an MA in Education in 1957, and began teaching at the elementary level for the Indianapolis Public Schools system later that year. During her time as a first-grade teacher at an inner-city school, she was able to gain a bird’s eye view of the difficulties and inequalities present in an urban setting. As a result, she developed initiatives on what might be required to correct them.
Upon her marriage to Stephen R. West in 1960, she opted to retire from active teaching to concentrate on issues of family and community service. Mrs. West dove into civic life through service on a number of committees at First Congregational Church of Indianapolis and as a troop leader for Girl Scouts. Later, she served as chair of the Butler-Tarkington Neighborhood Association and also as president of the Parent-Teacher Association at Indianapolis Public School #86 and Shortridge High School. Following service in these capacities, Mrs. West was tapped by the Indianapolis Public School Board to assist in an evaluation and rating of all high schools in the Indianapolis Public School system. Mrs. West rounded out her commitment to improving public schools in her adopted hometown by founding and chairing the Coalition of Indianapolis Task Groups for Youth (CITY), a non-profit watchdog organization that monitored the school board and promoted progressive change for the public school system. Mrs. West’s civic participation also included membership in the Indianapolis Women’s Club and service for the Panel of American Women speaker series and as a Symphoguide for the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra.
Mrs. West has reached a time of life where she is being honored by various organizations for her service and charitable contributions to Indianapolis. In recent years, she has received awards from both Mercy Foundation (Spirit of Africa Award) and Wishard Foundation (Indiana Public Health Award).